Arizona lawmakers considering bill to boost teacher pay by $10,000

Bill received support from Republicans, but some Democrats and education groups disagree.
Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 6:00 PM MST|Updated: Feb. 24, 2023 at 6:15 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - It’s a crisis in the classroom that’s been going on for quite a while — a severe shortage of teachers across the state. Data from the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association shows there were 2,890 teacher vacancies last month, with many of the openings created by educators quitting or retiring.

Lawmaker Matt Gress (R-Phoenix) is a former high school teacher who claims the teacher shortage is directly related to the fact Arizona ranks near the bottom nationally, when it comes to teacher pay.

Gress is looking to change that, so he’s sponsoring HB 2800, which would give Arizona teachers a $10,000 pay raise. “Teachers don’t go into the profession to get rich, but they shouldn’t have to live in poverty,” said Gress. “This would make a huge difference. $10,000 would significantly change the economic reality for teachers and their families.”

The bill has received a lot of support from fellow Republicans, but Democrats and some education groups disagree. Marisol Garcia is President of the Arizona Education Association. She said the pay raise bill comes with a lot of strings attached.

It doesn’t include any extra money for support staff like bus drivers and aides, and it has eligibility requirements that would prevent many deserving teachers from getting a bump in pay. “One of our big concerns, you have to have at least 15 children in your classroom to qualify,” said Garcia. “Every parent knows there are a lot of classrooms, especially special education classes that have less than 15 children, so are those teachers not as important?”

There are also concerns about the $700 million annual price tag. Gress is confident he can get the votes to push his bill through. Whether the Governor would sign it, is up for debate. “I think that will have a huge impact on retaining and attracting teachers,” said Gress.

HB 2800 is headed to the House Rules Committee where it’s expected to be voted on sometime next week.